Fresno State didn’t have much going in the first half Tuesday night at Marquette, down as many as 22 and into the break in a 19-point hole.
But just before halftime, Jahmel Taylor knocked down a 3-pointer, getting one of very few open looks for the Bulldogs’ top three scorers in the first 20 minutes. And with that one down, they proceeded to shoot themselves back into game before falling 84-81 at Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
“We kept climbing. We were right at the tip of it,” coach Rodney Terry said. “If we tackle this thing the way I thought we would tackle it in the first half, I think it’s anybody’s ballgame.
“We let a good offensive team get comfortable in the first half and they made some shots. I think they ended up making nine 3’s in the game – we made nine 3’s in the game – but we let them get to feeling comfortable executing their offense to start the game and I thought we didn’t make aggressive plays to start the game.”
Terry changed that at halftime.
“Honestly, Coach just called a couple of guys out,” said Terrell Carter II, who hit 7 of 9 shots in the second half and scored 15 of his game-high 21 points after the break.
“He challenged a lot of guys. He challenged our older players, and a lot of our older guys responded. You’re in a big atmosphere, so you don’t want to just give away a game. You want to show that you can compete with the best, and I think that’s what we did.”
The Bulldogs (5-3) cut the deficit to 78-76 on a 3-pointer by Paul Watson with 39 seconds to go and were down 80-78 after a short jumper by Carter with 24 seconds remaining. But Marquette guard Jajuan Johnson knocked down a pair of free throws, the Bulldogs missed at their end, and Sam Hauser hit 1 of 2 shots from the foul line to push the lead to five with 12 seconds to play.
Hauser scored 19 for the Golden Eagles (7-2), undefeated in five games at home.
The Bulldogs hit 19 of 30 shots in the second half (64.3 percent) and had an assist on 14 of their 19 baskets.
The first half? Nothing like that.
“Much better ball movement in the second half,” Terry said. “The first half, we had some looks, we just missed some easy shots, and then we had some drives here we didn’t go in and finish. We weren’t strong, in terms of trying to finish, early in the first half and we kind of let our offense dictate our defense in how hard we wanted to play and the urgency we wanted to have because of that.”
Stat of the game –The Bulldogs had 24 assists on 30 made baskets, 80 percent. Fresno State went in with an assisted basket percentage of 47.2. Its 85 assists and 12.1 per game were ninth of 11 in the Mountain West Conference.
Notable – In what ended as a three-point game, Marquette made six more free throws than the Bulldogs attempted, going 23 of 29 while Fresno State was 12 of 17.
Notable, part II – Fresno State had won 11 consecutive games decided by one possession.
Quotable – “We went in and I told them that we had to play with much more grit and much more urgency defensively, and if we do that and do that possession by possession we’ll put ourselves in position to win this game, and that’s what we did.” – Terry, on the message he delivered to his team at halftime.
Coming up – Carter, the 6-foot-10, 290-pound junior center, came up large for the Bulldogs, who might have figured out a few things at the offensive end in that strong second half.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. CAL POLY
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center (15,544)
- Records: Bulldogs 5-3, Mustangs 5-4
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themw.com)/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Cal Poly will come to Fresno on a two-game winning streak, including a 59-47 victory over Texas-San Antonio. The Bulldogs beat UTSA in season their opener 69-66.